In comments provided this week to Hawaii State Senator Carol Fukunaga, Federal Trade Commission staff warned that a proposed registry for Hawaii children’s e-mail addresses may provide pedophiles and other dangerous persons with a list of children whose addresses are in the registry, and that a registry may increase the amount of e-mail spam sent to registered addresses.
Hawaii Senate Bill 2200 would establish a “child protection registry” and make it unlawful to send a registrant e-mail advertising a product or service minors cannot legally buy, or that contains or advertises adult content or related Internet links. Senator Carol Fukunaga asked the FTC if the bill would reduce the amount of unwanted spam, and how the bill might affect Hawaii consumers and competition.
In the FTC’s June 2004 National Do Not Email Registry, A Report to Congress, FTC staff stated that existing security methods cannot fully protect such a registry from misuse, and thus “the Internet’s most dangerous users, including pedophiles . . . could use this information to target children.” In addition, without a system to authenticate the origin of e-mails, such a registry would be unlikely to reduce spam. Instead, spammers would most likely use a national e-mail registry to verify the validity of e-mail addresses. Therefore, an e-mail registry may actually increase the amount of spam received by registrants. The report can be found at the FTC’s Web site at: http://www.ftc.gov/reports/dneregistry/report.pdf.
In regard to Hawaii Senate Bill 2200, FTC staff concluded:
- “Because existing computer security techniques are inadequate to prevent the abuse of such a registry, SB 2200 may provide pedophiles and other dangerous persons with a list of contact points for Hawaii children.”
- “SB 2200 is unlikely to reduce the amount of email spam received by registered e-mail addresses. Further, because such a registry cannot be effectively monitored for abuse, it may have the unintended consequence of providing spammers with a mechanism for verifying the validity of e-mail addresses. This consequence may actually increase the amount of spam sent to registered children’s addresses in general, including spam containing adult content.”
- “The proposed registry would likely impose substantial costs on legitimate e-mail marketers. Combined with the prospect of substantial criminal and civil liability for individual violations, the extra burden that SB 2200 would place on Internet sellers may, therefore, hamper a particularly competitive segment of merchants in those industries covered by SB 2200, curtail the benefits of such competition to consumers, and cause consumers to no longer receive information that they value.”
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to provide the comments to Hawaii State Senator Fukunaga was 5-0. (FTC File No. V060012; the staff contact is Christopher M. Grengs, Office of Policy Planning, 202-326-2612)
Copies of the documents mentioned in this release are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580. Call toll-free: 1-877-FTC-HELP.